The Department has made no recent estimate of the quantity of drugs having to be disposed by National Health Service pharmacies.
However, research commissioned by the Department to determine the scale, causes and costs of waste medicines in England and published in November 2010, found that the gross cost of unused prescription medicines in primary and community care in the NHS in England in 2009 was £300 million a year and that up to £150 million of this amount was avoidable.
Much of the waste identified was not caused by failures on the part of either patients or professionals, but by factors such as illnesses progressing and treatment changes being required.
It also found that the NHS was managing the problem of medicines wastage more robustly than ever before, wastage of medicines was not a systemic problem in the NHS and was no worse than other comparable countries.
The report is available at the following link:
Nevertheless, NHS England is taking further action to promote medicines optimisation, such that patients receive the right medicine, at the right dosage, at the right time, and mitigate medicines wastage. This includes the deployment of clinical pharmacists in general practice and care homes to undertake structured medication reviews.